Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Fix It! Grammar

Institute for Excellence in Writing is best known for their writing curriculum, but that is not all they publish.  They also have a grammar curriculum, and it's been completely revised and updated.  We were sent the following books to review:


 
Fix It! Grammar is designed for grades 3 and up.  There are 6 books in the series:
  1. Fix It! Grammar:  The Nose Tree
  2. Fix It! Grammar:  Robin Hood
  3. Fix It! Grammar:  Frog Prince, or Just Deserts
  4. Fix It! Grammar:  Little Mermaid
  5. Fix It! Grammar:  Chanticleer
  6. Fix It! Grammar:  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The book your student would begin with would depend on their grammar knowledge.  IEW has a placement test to help you determine which book your student should begin with, and I'd recommend taking a look at the test just to verify where you think your student should start.

Fix It! Grammar is a unique grammar program because it teaches grammar concepts through real stories.  The stories use real sentences that contain real errors that your student might make in their own writing.  Through marking up the sentences and finding errors, the student learns grammar and correct usage, with the long view that this will transfer to the student's own writing.
 

 
 
As mentioned above, we received Fix It! Grammar Book 1:  The Nose Tree.  This book, like the others in the series, is designed to be used over the course of one year.  There are 33 weeks of lessons, and it should take about 15 minutes a day.  We received the Teacher's Manual and the Student Book.  They are both high quality, spiral bound books.  With the purchase of the Teacher's Manual, you also receive access to a PDF download of the Student Book so if you prefer to print your own Student Book, this is an option.
 
Each student should have a notebook.  If you have chosen to print your own Student Book, the notebook should have four sections:  Fix Its, Grammar Glossary, Rewrite, and Vocabulary.  If you purchase the Student Book, then the notebook would only have two sections:  Rewrite and Vocabulary.
 
On the first day of each week's work, you read through the section titled "Learn It" with your student (this section contains the teaching for the week).  There are grammar flash cards included in the Student Book, and your student should cut out any that are applicable to the day's lesson so they can review the concept.  Next,  you help your student mark up the first sentence in the reading.  Once the sentence is corrected, the student copies the corrected version into the Rewrite section of their notebook.  For Days 2-4, the student corrects the sentence for the day on their own, and copies the corrected version into their notebook.  At the end of the program, the student will have a clean, corrected version of the story.

Each day's reading also has a vocabulary word.  This word is in bold print, and the student is directed to look the word up in a dictionary, decide on the definition that best fits the sentence, and write a short definition in the vocabulary section of their notebook.
 
I used this with Luke & Ezekiel, and I started them in Book 1 to help them learn to recognize errors in writing.  I used the method described above, though I did not always read through day 1 with them and help them correct the first sentence.  Since they were already familiar with the grammar ideas, they did okay without my help, but this would not have worked if they were brand new to grammar.  I love that they are learning to find errors in real writing, since this can be difficult to teach using a traditional grammar program.  I loved that they were copying a real story as part of the program.  The vocabulary was the weakest part of the program, but I think this has to do with the fact Luke & Ezekiel are in 9th & 8th grades.  If I had chosen to use this with my 3rd grader, the minimum recommended age, I would definitely have had to spend time with him every day walking him through the sentences and he would have gotten more out of the vocabulary portion.

If you are looking for a non-traditional grammar program that will reinforce writing skills, definitely check out Fix It! Grammar.  Click on the banner below to read reviews of books 1-5.
 




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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Trucking Along

This is the slowest start we've ever had to a school year.  We still have 1 or 2 subjects to start, but overall it's going well.  The biggest issue is the driving.  I've gone from driving 50-75 miles/week, to driving around 300.  Some of these are longer drives, some are shorter.  But I feel like I'm constantly stopping what I'm doing to get a boy somewhere or pick a boy up.  It's not even that each boy has too many outside activities, it's just that they aren't all doing the same thing on the same day anymore. 

It's worth it, though.  The younger three are learning some fun stuff in their enrichment program, and to quote Luke "I'm in love with my engineering class".  Can't argue with that!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Under Drake's Flag

A handful of weeks ago, we were given the opportunity to review Under Drake's Flag, produced by Heirloom Audio Productions.  This 2 CD set with an abridged study guide sells for $29.95, and is most suitable for ages 6 through adult.  
 
We really enjoy listening to audio books here at Larson Boys Academy, especially when we're all in the van together.  Now that the boys are older, it seems that we're running in different directions quite often so we don't get to listen to as many as we used to.  However, this CD set arrived just before we left on a road trip to visit family so the timing was perfect for all 7 of us to listen to the story.
 
This is a 2 hour long audio theater production of G.A. Henty's story about Sir Francis Drake.  Since it is an audio theater production, it's more than just a narrator reading the story.  There is a full cast of talented actors performing the story, along with sound effects and a musical score that make the story come alive.  
 
Sir Francis Drake lived from 1540-1596.  He circumnavigated the globe for England, helped defeat the Spanish Armada when they invaded trying to capture England, and was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth.  More importantly, he was a strong Christian and his Christian values guided what he did. 

This story tells about Sir Francis Drake and his adventures through the experiences of Ned Hawkshaw.  During Ned's travels, he experiences battles, a shipwreck, and even a shark attack, and then he witnesses the Spanish Inquisition.
 
Included with the CDs is an abridged study guide.  This abridged guide is divided into 19 sections, and each section has three parts:  "Listening Well" (comprehension questions), "Thinking Further" (questions that require your child to use critical thought to think more deeply about the story), and "Defining Words" (words that your child might need to look up in order to understand a bit more about the story).  There are also 3 short Bible studies in the back of the guide.

There is also a full study guide available as a PDF download.  This full study guide has the same sections as the abridged version, but there are a more questions and words listed.  For example, in the first section, the abridged guide has 3 "Listening Well" questions, 3 "Thinking Further" questions, and 2 words under "Defining Words".  The full study guide has 8 "Listening Well" questions, 9 "Thinking Further" questions, and 6 words under "Defining Words".
 
This audio drama is very well done.  It was enjoyed by all 7 of us on our road trip.  The cast did a superb job, and the musical score and sound effects transported us into the story so we felt as if we were on the high seas ourselves, even though we were actually travelling through the midwest. 
 
Since we enjoyed Under Drake's Flag so much, I was excited to hear that Heirloom Audio Productions is currently working on a second title:  In Freedom's Cause.  This GA Henty book is about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and the projected release date is November. 
 
 
Under Drake's Flag Reviews
 
 
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Saturday, September 06, 2014

Thought From the 8 Year Old

Me:  "What are you thinking about?"
Nicholas:  "I know what I'm going to say if I ever lose a limb."
Me:  "What?"
Nicholas:  "'Tis a mere flesh wound."

Okay, then.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Good Point

"Mom, you've known me longer than anyone.  Even longer than I've known myself, because when I was born, I didn't know who I was.". --Micah

Saturday, August 23, 2014

We Haven't Even Started!

We've got a slow start going here, and yet the wisecrackery is already beginning.

I just happened to scan one of Ezekiel's assignments using literary devices.

I don't know the question, but his answer was:  "School is so boring, I died.  I cannot complete this assignment."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Sweet Bouquet

Jacob & Nicholas picked this for me last week.  Flowers from the backyard, lovingly tied up into a very sweet bouquet.
 
 

 


Monday, August 11, 2014

A Little Delay....

We were supposed to start today.

It's not going to happen.

I'm currently shooting for an August 25 start date, though September 2 might have to do.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Review: Old Western Culture-The Greeks

Every now and then a product comes along that really, really excites me.  Roman Roads Media has released one of these products:  Old Western Culture:  The Greeks.  The subtitle to this DVD course is "A Christian Approach to Great Books".

That's right--I said a DVD course that is a Christian approach to Great Books.  Now maybe you understand my excitement!

Way back when I was just starting our homeschool journey with Luke, I knew I wanted to give my sons an education using the Great Books as they entered Junior High & High School.   As time went on I never waivered in this goal, but our family ended up consisting of five closely spaced sons, I ended up with a chronic autoimmune liver disease, and last December I felt like God was nudging me to take a part time job at our church.  Combine these circumstances with the fact I did not receive the kind of education I wanted to give my boys, and I was struggling to provide what I'd hoped to. 

Enter Wesley Callihan & Roman Roads Media.


 
 


Wes Callihan is the highly qualified teacher on The Greeks DVDs.  He has a degree in history, has taught in many classrooms, has written Great Books study guides for Veritas Press, speaks at homeschool conferences, and is founder of  Schola Classical Tutorials.  All this to say, he is passionate about the subject matter he teaches.  His love of the Great Books shines through, and he's a wonderful teacher.
 
What exactly is Old Western Culture: The Greeks?  It is a four part DVD series that is a complete literature and social studies course for students in grades 8 and up.  This program was created for homeschoolers, so it is extremely homeschool friendly.  Each unit has 12 video lessons that are about 30 minutes each, for a total of 48 video lessons.  These video lessons aren't boring lectures, either.  As mentioned above, Wes Callihan is an engaging teacher who loves and knows the subject matter, and the lessons are full of wonderful graphics and artwork.

Each of the following four units can also be used as a stand alone unit, and as such, they can be used in any order:
  1. The Epics:  The Poems of Homer
  2. Drama and Lyric:  The Tragedies, Comedies, and Minor Poems
  3. The Histories:  Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon
  4. The Philosophers:  The Works of Plato and Aristotle
If you do all four units, your child will read Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, and more throughout the year.
 
In addition to the instruction, each part contains a PDF workbook, a Teacher's Edition, and needed texts in PDF format.  There is also an exam for each part, and writing assignments for your student.  Each DVD unit also contains a "Guide to the Art" booklet.  For $224, you have access to all that you need for the year.  Roman Roads does suggest that you purchase physical copies of the books read throughout the course, but if you choose not to, everything you need is included.

You can also purchase copies of the workbook if you'd rather not print them.  I received a hardcopy of The Histories workbook.  It is a spiral bound black and white workbook (with a color cover), and the answers are in the back of the workbook.  I have a black and white laser printer, and for our family I see no benefit in ordering a pre-printed workbook.  However, if you choose to do so, this is a quality product.
 

 
 
 

 
Now that I've described what it is, how does it work?  Luke and Ezekiel both fall in the suggested age range, and we began with the first unit, The Epics.  In this unit, your student will read both The Iliad and The Odyssey.  This unit has a schedule available for download on the Roman Roads website, while the other units have a schedule printed in the included Art Guide.  This schedule shows a recommended nine week schedule, working 5 days a week.  We followed this schedule pretty closely (we began with The Epics unit), though since it is summer we didn't always work 5 days a week. 

The first lecture of each unit is an introduction to the topic of the unit.  After watching the introduction, there are study questions in the student workbook for the student to answer.  An important point to note is that on each DVD there is a link on the menu for the study questions.  If your student has any trouble answering the questions, they can simply go to the study question link, find the appropriate question, and re-watch the pertinent portion of the DVD lecture.

After the introductory lesson, the student then begins to read the books for the unit.  Some days the student simply reads; other days the student will answer questions in the workbook about their reading; other days they will watch a video lecture about what they are reading and will answer questions in the workbook about the lectures.

The student is asked to write one paper for each unit.  According to the recommended schedule, they should take about 3 weeks to write the paper.  It is suggested that the paper be about 750-1200 words long.  In each workbook, there are several discussion questions, and if your student is struggling to come up with a thesis statement, they can use the discussion questions as a starting point for their paper.

Each unit also has a final exam.  These are available on the Roman Roads website.  If your student doesn't make a satisfactory grade on the exam, Roman Roads provides an exam B on the website as well.

I mentioned above that there is a "Guide to the Art" booklet included, and that the DVDs have wonderful artwork.  Throughout the lectures, related artwork is shown on the screen.  The "Guide to the Art" booklet contains full color reproductions of all this artwork, along with the title, artist, and information about the artwork and/or artist, meaning there is a mini art history course included as well.



 
 
Two years ago, Luke, Ezekiel, and I studied the ancients.  We were supposed to read The Odyssey, but I was intimidated.  It is not a skinny book, and it's not written in a style that I'm comfortable with.  This meant I was unsure how to approach this book with them, so we skipped it.  However, now that we're going through The Iliad with Wes Callihan, I look forward to tackling The Odyssey next with the boys.

While you could turn your student loose with the DVDs and reading, the parent is encouraged to watch the lectures and have discussions with their child.  I like that following this model, we are all learning together.  During one of our first discussions using the discussion questions in the workbook, the boys assumed I had the answers in my notebook.  The discussion questions do not have answers in the Teacher Edition, which meant (as I had to explain to them) that I was having to use my brain to think about and discover answers alongside them.  

Luke and Ezekiel are both very good readers, however Luke tends to be a slower reader.  The amount of reading is stretching Luke (in a good way), and having the suggested schedule helps me to see what a reasonable amount of reading is for a typical student.  We have found that following the schedule means that we're working on this 60-90+ minutes a day.  I think this is a fabulous use of our time, though, considering all that we are learning.

I appreciate that the program approaches these Great Books from a Christian perspective.  It is recognized that even though the authors were not believers, they still had worthwhile thoughts and ideas and is not afraid to tackle these head on, using a Christian worldview.

We're all enjoying this program, and we're all learning so much.  This program has made doing a Great Books study possible for our family; not only has it made it possible, it has made it possible to do it well and I am so excited about continuing with the next 3 years (The Romans, Christendom, and Early Moderns) of Old Western Culture.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

2014/2105 School Year

I can't believe another year is about to start.  I still don't have all the decisions made, and I'm not close to being ready, but I am making slow progress.  We've begun some things slowly, and will start full force August 18.  Here's most of the lineup.

Luke:

The Greeks (Roman Roads Media)
Spielvogel's Western Civilization (relevant portions, along with the study guide)
Saxon Algebra 2
Dynamic Literacy's Elements 1
English Grammar Revolution
Writing with Skill 1
Rhetorical Devices
Discovery of Deduction
Derek Owen's Physical Science
Lingua Latina (online class through Compass Classroom)
Introduction to Engineering Design (he'll be taking this at the high school)

Drums, piano, robotics, and recreational tumbling/trampoline gymnastics

Ezekiel:

The Greeks (Roman Roads Media)
Spielvogel's Western Civilization (relevant portions, along with the study guide)
Saxon Algebra 1
Dynamic Literacy's Elements 1
English Grammar Revolution
Writing with Skill 1
Rhetorical Devices
Discovery of Deduction
Derek Owen's Physical Science
Lingua Latina (online class through Compass Classroom)
Elementary Greek 2

Piano, robotics, recreational tumbling/trampoline gymnastics, and team t&t gymnastics

Jacob:

Winter Promise Quest for the Middle Ages
The Human Odyssey (relevant portions)
ctcmath.com/Learn Math Fast/Mathematical Reasoning
Rod & Staff Spelling
Hake Grammar 7
Writing with Skill 1
Figuratively Speaking
Lightning Literature and Composition 7
Building Thinking Skills
Holt Earth Science
Getting Started with Latin/Visual Latin

Enrichment program, piano, and recreational tumbling/trampoline gymnastics


Micah:

Winter Promise Quest for the Middle Ages
Veritas Press Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation Self-Paced
ctcmath.com/Learn Math Fast/Mathematical Reasoning
Rod & Staff Spelling
Hake Grammar 5
Classical Academic Press Writing & Rhetoric 1 & 2
Mom's Reading List
Building Thinking Skills
Houghton Mifflin Science 6
Prima Latina

Enrichment program, piano, and recreational tumbling/trampoline gymnastics


Nicholas: 

Winter Promise Quest for the Middle Ages
Veritas Press Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation Self-Paced
ctcmath.com/Learn Math Fast/Mathematical Reasoning
Rod & Staff Spelling
Hake Grammar 4
Classical Academic Press Writing & Rhetoric 1 & 2
Mom's Reading List
Building Thinking Skills
Houghton Mifflin Science 4
Prima Latina

Enrichment program, piano, and recreational tumbling/trampoline gymnastics